Ink Spot

More than just body art, a tattoo proclaiming ‘diabetic’ can be vitally important
Ink Spot
Photograph By Cybelle Codish

Tattoos, once the mark of military veterans and ex-cons, have become nearly as common as freckles on American hides.

Today’s ubiquitous designs reflect personality, faith, love, military service, herd mentality, or simply impulsive behavior. For some, however, they’re a real lifesaver.

Sixteen-year-old Bronte Root of Birmingham was never opposed to getting a tattoo. But up until a year ago, she had never seriously considered having a permanent mark inked onto her body. That is, not until her doctor mentioned a tattoo identifying her as a diabetic as an option to the various medical-alert bracelets she had gone through in the decade since being diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes.

Previously known as juvenile diabetes, the disease is diagnosed in children and young adults whose bodies do not produce insulin. Bronte, like many young diabetics (Type 1 affects males and females in equal numbers), has struggled with wearing the bracelets that alert medical personnel to their condition — information that can be vital.

Though she understood the seriousness of wearing proper identification, clasps broke, certain metals irritated her skin, and a bracelet was often forgotten at home or lost. Last August, to ease her parents’ worries and eliminate stress for herself, Bronte got a diabetic tattoo imprinted on her wrist. With the help of her mother’s connections in the beauty industry, Bronte investigated several practitioners before choosing artist Laura Kondon at Eternal Tattoos in Clawson.

She had owned several very nice bracelets, but Bronte says she’s happy with her decision and feels safer because of it. “It’s great because I don’t have to worry about it,” she says. “And I don’t feel guilty about not wearing my bracelet. I’m going to college soon, and I didn’t want my parents to worry.” Would she recommend the tattoo option to others with diabetes? It’s a lifestyle preference, she replies, adding, “It’s something spiritual, too. [The tattoo] is a part of me, and diabetes is a big part of my life.”